By LTJG Katie Braynard
This one, powerful phrase has been carried throughout military bases since 2006 by American 300 Foundation creator, Robert Powers.
Powers began the foundation in 2006 as a way to help spread messages of resiliency to members of the Armed Forces. On his tours, he brings popular figures, extreme athletes, combat veterans and former Prisoners of War, who share their own experiences and challenges that they have overcome and listen to challenges members of the military may be facing.
For the past eight years, Powers has visited countless military bases from all five branches of the Armed Forces, many of which have seen combat or are located in geographically isolated areas.
On Memorial Day, Powers began a whirlwind tour of nine Coast Guard stations, to include Coast Guard Station Neah Bay, Washington, and units throughout Alaska.
Retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Edward J. Mechenbier, a 44-year service veteran who was shot down on his 80th mission over North Vietnam in June 1967 and spent nearly six years as a prisoner of war, joined Powers on a tour of west coast units, to include surf stations and air stations in the Pacific Northwest. While he shared his own stories, he also took away a better understanding of the Coast Guard men and women who stand the watch, each and every day.
“I came to a real appreciation that the Coast Guard does their mission everyday,” Mechenbier said. “You don’t get down days or reconstitution days, it’s all the job, everyday.”
Another tour recently wrapped up by Powers brought along Marine Corps Col. John Bates, a three-time Purple Heart recipient, when he visited Station Inigoes. The two spent half a day with an aids to navigation boat crew as they serviced various navigational beacons.
“That’s the way I want to have GMT’s on resiliency delivered,” said Powers.
And throughout his visits with the various units, Powers has learned just as much from Coast Guard men and women as they have from him.
“We’re having so much fun working with the Coast Guard, visiting the small boat stations, visiting the air stations, going to these crazy, remote locations that no one even knows exist, and seeing these young men and women, our United States Coast Guard, out there 24/7,” said Powers. “The thing that blows me away the most about the Coast Guard is that we have E-4s and E-5s out there doing more collateral work than any other service.”
Powers said that how that fact doesn’t become collateral damage, he didn’t quite understand at first.
“When you get on station and you see the camaraderie, you see the esprit de corps, you see the one team approach, it speaks for itself,” he said.
For his service to members of the Armed Forces, Powers was honored by Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James and Commandant of the Coast Guard Adm. Paul Zukunft as the U.S. Coast Guard’s Spirit of Hope award recipient. The Spirit of Hope award honors those individuals whose selfless devotion and patriotism reflect that of the late Bob Hope. Each branch of the Armed Forces nominates and honors a group or individual who epitomizes the values of Hope: duty, honor, courage, loyalty, commitment, integrity and selfless dedication.
“When the admiral called me this summer to say that I had been chosen to represent the Coast Guard and received the Spirit of Bob Hope award, it blew me away,” Powers said.
At that point, Powers had visited just nine Coast Guard units on his tours, but had visited nearly 400 bases from the other services since beginning the foundation.
“It’s one of the greatest honors I’ve ever had bestowed upon me in my entire life,” Powers said.
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